Qiang Chen

Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Campbell, Carl M., III

Degree Name

Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy)

Legacy Department

Department of Economics


Brain drain--United States--Case studies; Brain drain--New Zealand--Case studies; Brain drain--Great Britain--Case studies; Brain drain--China--Case studies


Recently a growing literature studied the possibility of beneficial brain drain (BBD) through stimulating domestic human capital formation. The first essay explores a new and potentially more important mechanism of BBD through return migration within a framework of Romer-Jones R&D-based endogenous growth. A key premise is that skilled emigrants may return to the home country to seek entrepreneurial opportunities given a suitable domestic business environment and bring back new knowledge from abroad. Surprisingly, under fairly general conditions, the model predicts that benefits from knowledge gain through return migration can overweigh the loss from brain drain in the long term, leading to eventual convergence. A numerical example is provided to calculate the speed of convergence. Available emigration data from the US and New Zealand are supportive of the positive effect of skilled return migration on economic growth. By calibrating a parsimonious Solow model augmented by natural resources, the second essay offers a simple explanation of the “labor scarcity paradox” during the process of America’s catching up with Britain, which static models have difficulties in accounting for so far. A numerical simulation mimics the US overtaking the UK around 1900 in per capita GDP. The Needham puzzle asked why China lagged technologically in the modem world despite its impressive lead in premodem time. Existing explanations fall into two categories, demand failure or supply failure. The third essay discusses and dismisses two supply-side hypotheses based on scientific revolution or rent seeking and proposes that the lack of formal legal institutions such as patent protection is an important missing link. A Poisson regression and a negative binomial regression are applied to two datasets of major invention counts for the US and 14 Western European countries during 1750-1950 and 1590-1900 respectively. The data point to a significant positive effect of patent laws on invention rates, after controlling for each country's economy size. This result is robust in different specifications of cross-country fixed effects and/or random effects models and after dropping the UK and the US from the sample.


Includes bibliographical references (pages [126]-134).


v, 152 pages




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